Monday, November 05, 2007

A Little Chickadee

The bird feeders at the cabin were busy this weekend. I saw most of the usual winter suspects. This little fellow is a black-capped chickadee with a seed in his beak. In this area, I’m supposed to be politically correct and refer to the chickadees I see as "chickadee species," since both Carolina and black-capped chickadees are present and will interbreed. (And since they do, doesn’t this make them a single species? But I digress.) Just to be clear, I am not now, nor have I ever been politically correct, so I’m saying this cute little one is a black-capped chickadee.

I do have Carolina chickadees at the feeders too, though they are still in the minority (but a growing minority). When I get a good photo of one of those I’ll post it so we can compare. The reasons I’m calling this little cutie a black-capped chickadee is 1) because its white face patch continues as bright white throughout the patch. In Carolina chickadees, the white patch fades to a pale gray past the eye. 2) This fellow also has a nice amount of white on the wing edgings. White wing edgings are in short supply on Carolinas. 3) The bird is quite buffy on its belly, which you can only just see a tiny bit around its legs. The Carolinas are pretty uniformly gray underneath, with little or no buffy color.

You might also notice the background of this photo. Yes, there’s yellow back there, but also quite a bit of green, which is completely atypical for November 4 (when I took this photo). I’ve never known of any year where the leaves weren’t completely down by November 1. But this year, not only are many not down yet, many are even still green!

The leaf change has come in stages this year. At the moment I’m in stage four, and I suspect there will be at least one more to come. By stages I mean that some leaves turn color, then a good wind will come along and all those leaves will drop. What’s left are leaves that are still green. Late last week it looked like late August or mid-September again for a few days. In a normal year, there are no "stages." The leaves simply all turn color and drop within a week a so, gone with October’s end. Even the local weatherman remarked on the leaves this morning—the first time I’ve heard anyone else mention it or even notice it locally.

The temperature is near normal for November, at the moment. I’m guessing the record warmth in October is the culprit for the weird and late leaf drop this year. Who know what will happen next? I’m trying to hold out hope for a decent winter, but I’m not sure I really believe it will happen anymore.


Anonymous said...

Ah, the great Chickadee debate! I look for the Greater Upper Wing Covets being white or not (i.e. the hocky stick on the wing), size and neatness of bib and whitness of nape. If I'm not sure after this, then its a hybrid. And I agree with you, if they can interbreed aren't they the same species? Of course that is only my 5th grade understanding of these t hings.

Cathy said...

Yes, it seem the leaves are hanging around this year. However I just check the the 7 day forecast, hmm the word snow is entering the picture for up here. There's call for light snow for Thursday's night. Only 30% chance but I do miss seeing the snow fall.

Ok I got to go back to work.

dguzman said...

Wow, I've never noticed Carolinas at my feeders, but maybe I've just been assuming they're all BCs because I'm out of range for the Carolinas. ?? Perhaps I'll look more closely.

Oh, don't even try to second-guess the ABA on the hybrid/species issues. I think they're using DNA now to make those determinations, but it could just be voodoo, too. Who knows?

Carolyn H said...

Vern: my own 5th grade understanding is that if the animals can produce viable offspring, they're not a separate species. Plus, from what I've read, female black-cappeds prefer male Carolinas (go figure), which is how the Carolinas move themselves north. Of course, it may only be this warmer weather that makes the black-cappeds prefer the Carolinas. I'm reminded of The Beak of the Finch and how finch preferences in the Gallapagos changed with wet/dry seasonal cycles.

Cathy: The snow word is being mentioned here, too, though as flurries not as a ground covering. We'll see, I guess.

dguzman: be on the lookout for Carolinas. The hybridized boundary line moves ever further north.

kat said...

I love this post, and I love the beautiful picture of the chickadee. Chickadees are one of my favorite birds, and my parents, in Oregon, get the Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees. I have never been lucky enough to see a Carolina Chickadee (not yet anyway). Here where I live, near the coast in California, we get the Chestnut-backed Chickadees. They keep me entertained quite a bit, especially when during breeding season when they guard the feeder.

I wanted to send you a picture of a juvenile Junco after it fledged, because of your post on juncos, but I did not see an email link for you. So here is a link to the picture, along with a juvenile Chestnut-backed Chickadee from my woods.

I'm really enjoying your posts and glad I found your blog site.

Carolyn H said...

Kat: the photos on your site are great! I love chickadees of any kind. I've seen the chestnut-backed ones in Alaska and the mountain chickadees at the High Desert Museum in Bend (those are really little cuties). All the species seem to have that typical chickadee attitude. Boreal chickadees are another favorite, though they can be shyer than is typical--especially at first. After they get used to your presence, they are bolder. They're all cute! Carolyn H.

kat said...

Thanks Carolyn!

I'm definitely infatuated with anything chickadee! A few years ago, I found a chickadee nest and watched them every day for a month. I'd be watching them in the morning, at dawn, before work and until dark (after work) when they settled. This pair was quite used to my being around & carried on as if I wasn't even there. I was lucky enough to watch 5 fledglings leave the nest and the female brought them over to a branch just over my head for a few minutes before they flew off into the woods. The parents did bring them back to our woods about a week later. It was a magical summer!

Carolyn H said...

Kat: it would be wonderful to watch a pair of chickadees nest right in front of your eyes! That must have been wonderful. I'm envious of that! Thanks for the story.

Carolyn H.

ChicagoLady said...

Here in Chicago, the leaves have also been changing colors in stages. I don't recall a past year when I've seen such varying stages of fall. Green trees, trees just starting to change, trees halfway changed, trees fully changed, trees halfway bare, and trees fully bare, all in the same block on my street.

I heard somewhere, can't remember where now, that the lack of rain here might have something to do with the slow leaf drop. And once I started thinking about it, October was pretty dry here.

I love the chickadees too. It's one of those calls that I've always associated with winter, but then I was surprised to have a chickadee hang out all summer at my feeder. Quite a nice surprise to hear him in the mornings.

RuthieJ said...

That's a really good chickadee picture, Carolyn! Mine move so fast it's difficult to capture them with the camera.